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Tacoma nurses seek job protections going into new COVID-19 outbreak

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As Washington enters a renewed, statewide lockdown to curb growing COVID-19 infection rates, Tacoma nurses are fighting for reasonable working conditions and assurances that they will be taken care of if they contract the disease at work.

The editorial board of the Tacoma-based News Tribune published an op-ed on Nov. 13, outlining the issues that nurses in Pierce County are facing amidst a record spike in coronavirus cases.

Following outbreaks among staff in two Pierce County hospitals – St. Joseph Medical Center and Auburn Medical Center – nurses have asked the CHI Franciscan health system to address a number of issues, including uncertainty around testing requirements and pay assurances.

“Front-line hospital workers deserve the assurance of receiving full and fair pay if they contract a virus that has infiltrated their workplace … They shouldn’t have to draw down personal sick leave or vacation balances — hours they may have depleted or haven’t accrued,” the editorial board said.

“Hospital administrators shouldn’t require proof that an infection happened on the job before paying administrative leave,” the board continued. “With the countless patient interactions nurses have on every shift, such proof may be impossible, even with contact-tracing efforts.”

The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) highlighted some of these issues in a news release the same day the op-ed was published.

Burnout is another risk that frontline health care workers are experiencing, Dr. Anthony Chen, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department director, said in a media tele-briefing on Nov. 10.

Most employees who can’t work or are ordered to stay home due to the pandemic are eligible for workers’ compensation and the state’s new Paid Family & Medical Leave benefits. Frontline workers should be guaranteed that they will be taken care of for the work they do treating the population at large.

“Disease exposure is an occupational hazard; financial exposure need not be,” the editorial board said.

 


Emery Reddy helps workers. Contact us for a free consultation if you have a workers’ comp, L&I or other coronavirus-related employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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